EPISCOPAL DIVINITY SCHOOL
REVISIONING THE AFRO-ANGLICAN CHURCH:
DISCERNMENT, LEADERSHIP & PRAXIS
CHARLES A. WYNDER, JR.
J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1989
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF DIVINITY
© Copyright by
CHARLES A. WYNDER, JR.
Superviso r 4«*-— *V T^-^
The Rev. Canon Edward W. Rodman, D.D.
John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry
Faculty Reader * ■ /7*~—~—Tfi£^
Christopher Duraisingh^Tli.ID., D,D. /
Otis Charles Visiting Professor in A_pplied Theology
Clergy Reade r V^ai VvwiffiL, U^v^^faorvH .
Jhe Rev. Zenetta Armstrong »
Rector, The Episcopal Church of t&e Holy Spirit
EPISCOPAL DIVINITY SCHOOL
Master of Divinity Degree Thesis
Revisioning the Afro- Anglican Church; Discernment, Leadership & Praxis
The challenges facing Afro- Anglican congregations involve questions of mission,
ministry and leadership. Many Afro- Anglican congregations consist of a varied mixture
of people of African American, Afro-Caribbean, and African background or heritage.
This diasporic context raises questions of identity, meaning, and purpose. It is against
this backdrop that I seek to explore the heritage, identity, and ministry of Afro-Anglicans
in the United States. I revision the identity and ministry of the Afro- Anglican Church by
addressing the current context of Black communities, the Afro-Anglican Church, and
critical components of visioning and leadership development. I will then propose a
congregational approach to visioning for lay and ordained leaders seeking to be
responsive to the needs of their surrounding neighborhoods and contribute to ministries
justice, peace, and reconciliation.
Charles A. Wynder, Jr.
This thesis is dedicated
to the memory of my parents,
Carrie Bell Broxton Wynder Home
who died during my final year of seminary
Charles Allen Wynder, Sr.,
who together raised me in St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church;
to Rev. Dr. Eugene Broxton
a minister, and educator,
whose life work has been building the
to Bethany Dickerson Wynder
who encouraged, challenged and supported me
throughout the writing of this thesis.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 : Introduction
Chapter 2: A Way Forward: Heritage & Legacy as Sources for Revisioning
Chapter 3: The Context of Today's Afro- Anglican Church
Chapter 4: Discernment, Leadership & Praxis for Change & Transformation
Chapter 5: Conclusion
I thank my advisor, the Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, for sharing knowledge, wisdom,
and insight from over thirty years of ministry, service and leadership in the Afro-
Anglican Church and the broader Episcopal Church of the United States. He challenged
me to be precise in my research, framing of the question, analysis, and synthesis of my
thesis. His vision greatly informs my own thinking, writing and ministry. I thank my
reader, Dr. Christopher Duraisingh, for challenging me to envision the Afro-Anglican
Church as a movement of God's people in a postcolonial and postmodern world. He
pushed me to rigorously challenge assumptions, remain true to tradition, and remain open
to the felt needs represented by the groaning of the people. I thank the Rev. Zenetta
Armstrong, my clergy reader for providing me the opportunity to engage in the praxis of
revisioning in the lived context of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit. I am grateful
to my Susan Spilecki for her constant availability and expertise as an editor.
Thanks to the Rev. Dr. William Kondrath for his supervision and guidance in my
field education work which helped me to navigate congregational ministry as a
seminarian. I am grateful to Dr. Kwok Pui Lan, Dr. Joan Martin, Dr. Angela Bauer-
Levesque and Dr. Gail Yee for introducing me to the substance and application of
contextual theologies of liberation, womanist, Black and postcolonial theologies. Dr.
Fredrica Harris Thompsett, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, and Dr. Jenny Te Paa equipped me
to understand the Afro-Anglican Church in historical and global context.
I am appreciative of the support, guidance and encouragement of the ordained and
lay leaders of the Afro- Anglican Church, I am particularly indebted to Janice Wormack
and the Washington Chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians, the Rev. Canon
Kortright Davis, PhD, the Rev. Vincent Harris, Dr. Bob Steele, the Rev. Richard Tolliver,
PhD, and St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church, Hampton, Virginia, St. Luke's Episcopal
Church, Washington, DC, and the Church of the Holy Spirit Mattapan, Massachusetts. I
am grateful to the Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Baxter for planting the initial seeds of my inquiry of
Afro-Anglicanism. I am grateful to the Rt. Rev. Barbara Harris for helping me
understand the challenges, opportunities and vocation of the Afro-Anglican Church in a
I am thankful for the support and example of Dr. Badi Foster and Jon Asher who
encouraged me to embrace this project as an important leg in my journey.
I am particularly grateful to the Rev. Virginia Brown-Nolan and the Rev. Michele
Hagans. Their mentoring and grants provided me with support that allowed me focus
full-time on the experience of study, research and reflection at the Episcopal Divinity
I also thank my family, including my parents, in-laws, siblings, uncles, aunts, and
cousins for their support and encouragement. I am particularly grateful to Charles
Wynder, Sr. and Carol Wynder, and Charles and Judith Dickerson for their dialogue and
concrete feedback as I developed the ideas of this thesis.
Lastly, I am grateful to my wife, Bethany Dickerson Wynder for her
accompaniment and partnership throughout the work of this thesis and our continuing
Chapter i: Introduction
The Felt Needs & Groaning of America 's Black Communities
The litany of challenges for African-descended people continues to situate Blacks
at the bottom rung of economic of the American socioeconomic ladder. This ongoing
nature of economic disparity and systemic poverty is a frequent reminder of the
unfinished agenda of the War on Poverty. It is frequently seen as the unfinished agenda
of the Civil Rights Movement. Many question the role and responsibility of the Black
Church and other faith communities in responding to the structural inequities and
dislocation felt by individuals and families. The wage gap, income inequality and the
wealth gap are more than mere statistics. They impact where one lives and the quality
and nature of housing, conversely the quality and nature of the schools attended by one's
children is impacted by where one lives. This translates into the quality of the education
that children receive. Educational challenges raise the specter of what is commonly
referred to as the achievement gap. Again, the gap between the white high school
graduation rate and the Black high school graduation rate is more than a statistical
number. It has an impact on whether Black teenagers will have the opportunity to attend
college. It also impacts their job options and opportunities. Teenagers who remain
unemployed for significant periods of time have significant problems entering the job
market in their twenties.
Economic and educational inequality, aggressive and unequal treatment by the
criminal justice system, and inadequate housing are further aggravated by significant
health care disparities. These disparities represent more than disproportionate rates of
diabetes, HIV/AIDS, heart disease and cancer. They also represent differentials in access
to care and treatment. The healthcare inequities result in lower life expectancies. The
additional challenge for Blacks living in the United States is the intersection between
class and race. The interaction of race and lower economic status contributes to cycles of
poverty and despair that can greatly impact one's sense of hope. It also challenges one's
faith and understanding of justice. The cost to the dignity of women, men, and children
facing inadequate housing, failing schools, and few employment and educational
opportunities is immeasurable.
Afro-Anglicanism 's Opportunity to Build Beloved Community
It is in this space and against this background that the development of a renewed
and transformed Afro-Anglican Church is critical. If the gifts, talents, and resources of
the congregations both clergy and laity are be deployed for their fullest potential in the
efforts to foster the building of the beloved community, the Afro-Anglican Church must
revision its sense of purpose, meaning and identity. This requires a recommitment to the
best of the heritage of its founding congregations: St. Thomas', Philadelphia; St. Philip's,
New York City; and St. James, Baltimore. Such a revisioning recognizes the central role
these congregations played in responding to the cultural, spiritual, community, economic
and political needs of their community. Their willingness as congregations to meet the
needs of their nearby neighborhoods is what is called for in order to move beyond the
stagnation of the social, economic and cultural challenges facing the Black community.
Diasporic Context of Today 's Black Communities
Today's Black communities are multilayered, multicultural, and transnational.
They embody the diversity of the African Diaspora. Afro-Anglicanism has theological
approaches, methods and ritual grounded in Black liberation theology that can assist the
Afro-Anglican Church in being effective in building up Christian communities that can
do the work of reconciliation, healing, justice and transformation. Equipped with
adaptive leadership capacity, a revisioned Afro-Anglican Church will actively listen and
discern its vocation.
Social Context of Author & Overview
I write as a Black man formed and shaped by the religious, ethical and spiritual
traditions of the Afro- Anglican Church. I have studied the heritage, legacy and ongoing
tradition of these congregations throughout my seminary studies. This thesis argues that
revitalization of Afro-Anglican congregations requires a holistic visioning and planning
that equips lay and ordained leaders to develop ministry, worship and service that is
responsive to the conditions and needs of the Black community. Such visioning should
integrate congregational discernment, holistic leadership and congregational
development, and traditional strategic planning. I posit that engaging the congregation as
a learning community supports the transformational and renewal needed for the
reenergized and revitalized Afro-Anglican Church, My thesis includes a discussion of a
holistic visioning and planning process currently being implemented at Church of the
Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts. It is based on principles of learning, adaptive
leadership and systems theory that preferences the lived realities of local congregations
and communities over a fixed model for congregational transformation and renewal.
This process serves as a replicable approach that can be tailored to the particularized
context of other congregations.
Organization of Thesis
The rest of this thesis is structured as follows. Chapter 2 discusses the early
history of the Afro- Anglican Church in the United States and posits that this heritage is a
valuable source of information for reimagining the future. Chapter 3 describes the
socioeconomic and demographic trends shaping the current context of Black
communities and the Afro- Anglican congregations. Chapter 4 makes the case for
visioning and adaptive leadership development as important competencies for Afro-
Anglican congregations to develop and enhance. Chapter 5 provides a model of holistic
visioning that integrates leadership development and capacity building into its planning
process. Chapter 6 offers conclusions and suggestions for future work
Chapter 2: A Way Forward: Heritage & Legacy as Sources for Revisioning
All Soul's [Episcopal] Church, on St. Nicolas Avenue, and any number of the
traditional neighborhood churches in Harlem that had for generations boasted
strong memberships - built on and sustained by familial loyalty and neighborhood
ties - are now struggling to hold on to their congregations. The gentrification of
Harlem has helped deplete their ranks, as younger residents, black and white have
arrived but not taken up places in their pews. Longtime Harlem families, either
cashing in on the real estate boom over the past decade or simply opting to head
south for their retirement, have left the neighborhood and its churches. Then
there are the deaths, as year by year, whole age bands are chipped away. Without
a sustainable membership, and with no fresh wave of tithe-paying, collection-
plate-fllling young members, these churches have struggled to keep their doors
open, to maintain repairs and to extend their reach in the community. Some, like
All Soul's, cannot afford a full-time minister, let alone operate a soup kitchen or
clothes pantry. . . . Ministers from churches across Harlem said they had yet to
penetrate the walls of the high priced condominiums and the million-dollar
refurbished brownstones that now dominate the neighborhood. Some, in truth,
expressed little desire to do so. Others said they saw the gentrification of Harlem
as an opportunity, but one as yet unrealized. 1
Crisis: Challenge & Opportunity
The current context of Afro-Anglican congregations like All Souls is troubling.
The diminished viability shown by its minimal membership and graying pews without
any foreseeable infusion of young adults or youth is reinforced by a lack of vitality in
mission, ministry and service. The picture does not, however, tell the full story of this
and similar congregations that once thrived. Similar narratives can be written of Afro-
Anglican congregations around the United States. Some were formerly cardinal parishes,
which now struggle to maintain a resemblance of their former reputations. The picture
includes vital and viable congregations such as St. Edmund's in Chicago and St. Paul's in
1 Tremaine Lee, "Some Harlem Churches in Fight for Survival," New York Times 24 May 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/20 1 0/05/24/nyregion/24harlem.html?
Atlanta. The promise of revitalizing and re-energizing Afro-Anglican parishes involves
recognizing the particularities of the loose network of Afro-Anglican congregations.
Revisioning the Afro- Anglican Church and presence requires a wide lens. The current
context addressed more directly in subsequent pages derives out of a long history and
heritage. My survey of lay and clergy leadership of Afro- Anglican congregations
informs my framing and analysis of the context of the contemplated revisioning. In this
chapter, I address the heritage and legacy of the Afro-Anglican presence in the Episcopal
Church. A brief survey of historic touchstones can be helpful in grounding an imagined
future in a historic context. 3
Colonial Era America, Afro-Anglicans & Slavery
The Afro-Anglican presence in the United States begins with the incorporation of
African slaves into Episcopal parishes during the colonial era, starting with the baptism
of African slaves in Jamestown, Virginia in 1623. 4 African slaves and their children were
baptized and given instruction in the catechism of the Church of England. In fact, the
society responsible for propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts worked to support the
baptism of African slaves in the American colonies having an Anglican presence. 5 The
2 I surveyed clergy and lay leadership of Afro-Anglican churches about the current trends, challenges and
opportunities they face in areas of urban ministry, leadership, and managing change. This ongoing work is
funded by the Jonathan Daniels Fellowship of the Episcopal Divinity School.
3 George Thompson, Futuring Your Church: Finding Your Vision and Making It Work (Cleveland: United
Church Press, 1999).
4 Harold Lewis, Yet with a Steady Beat: The African American Struggle for Recognition in the Episcopal
Church (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 9.
5 George F. Bragg, History of the Afro-American Group of the Episcopal Church (Baltimore: Church
Advocate Press, 1922), 29.
religious life for Christian slaves varied. Slaves were often compelled to assume the
religious tradition of their owner. Some churches had a "Negro gallery" where slaves sat
during the worship service. Some slaves worshiped in special chapels presided over by
white clergy and erected for communities with a large number of African slaves. 6 The
compelled involvement of African slaves in Episcopal Churches led to a significant
presence of Afro-descended people in the denomination during the period of slavery. In
fact, prior to the Civil War, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina had nearly the same
number of Afro-Anglicans as whites. 7 Alongside the "Negro gallery" and the special
chapels developed an "invisible institution" of an indigenous and non-institutional
"Negro church." Here slaves connected their African religious customs, beliefs and
ethics with the Christianity practiced in the chapel and the church. 8 The details of the
development of the Black preacher and the practice of African slave religion are an
essential part of the history of Afro-descended people in the United States, but exceeds
the scope of this project. 9 Its role must be noted, as it was a midwife to the evolution of
the institutionalized Black church.
Colonial American, Free Africans & Afro-Anglicanism
The sphere of the plantation does not fully describe the religious space and
practice of Afro-descended people in the United States. A significant development
6 Bragg, 29-30.
7 Gardiner Shattuck, Episcopalians & Race: Civil War to Civil Rights (Lexington, KY: The University
Press of Kentucky, 2000), 8.
8 Bragg, 30-31.
9 Bragg, 30.
related to the development of Afro- Anglicanism is the life of free Africans after the
Revolutionary War. Their presence in the Northern states increased over time, as the
number of free Africans grew during the colonial and post-Revolutionary War periods.
This increased presence of Blacks developed in Northern states where some worshipped
in predominantly white congregations such as Trinity Parish, New York, 10 which had
included Afro-descended people in its ministry from the early days of its establishment.
Free Africans in Northern communities organized their communal life to be mutually
beneficial and supportive. African societies formed in cities like Philadelphia, Boston
and New York. These societies corresponded with one another. The Prince Hall Masons
also served as a cornerstone organization for the Afro-descended community in
Philadelphia, New York and Boston. The interplay between mutual aid societies like the
Free African Society, Prince Hall Masons and efforts to organize Black congregations led
to symmetrical responses in Northern free Black urban communities.
Free African Society, Community & Church
The Free African Society in Philadelphia played a particularly significant role in
the development of institutional African corporate life and presence in the Episcopal
Church. Its leaders included Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. The Free African
10 Bragg, 46, 80.
11 Bragg, 81.
12 Bragg, 46, 55; Edward Rodman, "Walk About Zion: An Overview of the Dynamics Affecting Urban
Ministry in the Black Episcopal Church," Anglican Theological Review Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1994),
445; David Hackett, "The Prince Hall Masons and the African American Church: The Grand Labors of
Grand Master and Bishop James Walker Hood, 1831-1918," Church History Vol. 69, No. 4 (Dec. 2000),
Society grew out of the refusal of Philadelphia's St. George's Methodist Church to
respect its African members' ministry, service and contributions to the congregation.
Jones and Allen were lay leaders in St. George's and known for the effective ministry and
evangelism in the African community of Philadelphia. The African members of
congregations participated and contributed significantly to an expansion of the church.
After doing so, the members were told they would have to sit in the balcony or "Negro
gallery." Jones and Allen refused and were removed from the church while on their knees
in prayer. The systemic failure of the congregation to treat its African members as full
members of its communion contributed to the founding of the Free African Society in
Philadelphia. 13 The Free African Society was a benevolent and reform society. Members
were committed to the maintenance of moral standards and contributing money "toward
the provision for the poor." 14 The society and others like it provided "mutual aid, burial
assistance and relief of windows and orphans." The Free African Society petitioned the
Philadelphia Common Council in 1790 and rented a section of Potters field as a burial
ground for Philadelphia's Africans. 15 The Free African Society was not merely a secular
organization, but rather a religious organization concerned with the moral formation of its
members along with "community action" and "social welfare." 16 Its members were
limited to "free Africans" who were committed to "becomfing] worthy exemplars to the
13 Lewis, 27.
14 Lewis, 27.
15 Brian Terpak, "Building the Black Zion: The Role of Black Churches in Creating Philadelphia's Free
Black Church, 1787-1820," 15; Lewis, 28.
16 Lewis, 28.
black race yet in bonds." It was their hope that their behavior and actions would speed the
decision of whites to support the emancipation of all Africans in bondage.
African Church & St. Thomas African Episcopal Church
The Society decided to become the African Church in 1792. The church's edifice was
completed in 1794. 17 Shortly after completing the building, the members of the African
Church agreed conditionally to affiliate with the Episcopal Church. The members'
conditions included reception into the Episcopal Church as an already-organized body;
autonomy and local control of their affairs; and that one of their members be licensed as
their Lay Reader It was further stipulated that this person, "if found, fit" become their
ordained minister. Lammers observed that the members favored the Episcopal Church
over the Methodist Church in part because of the fluid nature of authority and structure.
The Bishop favored independent congregations along with the provision of "necessary
theological and liturgical structure and financial support." 18 Agreement to these
conditions by the Episcopal Church would make St. Thomas African Episcopal Church
the first independent African church and the first African Episcopal congregation in the
United States. 19 Announcement of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church's reception into
the Episcopal Church was made on October 12, 1794. The congregation immediately
petitioned for the ordination of Absalom Jones. Favorable action on the petition required
the Bishop waive proficiency in Greek and Latin by ordained ministers. Absalom Jones
17 Bragg, 57.
18 Lewis, 29.
19 Lewis, 28.
did not have such proficiency. The Bishop acted favorably on the petition to ordain
Absalom Jones with the significant condition that St. Thomas African Episcopal Church
be precluded from sending clergy or deputies to the Diocesan Convention or "interfere
with the general government of the Episcopal Church." James Abercrombie, Secretary
for the Convention, noted in the minutes that the condition was "made in consideration of
their peculiar circumstances at present." 20 Richard Allen would go on to establish the
African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. He and Absalom Jones would
continue to work together for the improvement of the lives of the Black community in
Philadelphia. Absalom Jones would serve nine years as deacon before being priested in
1804. St. Thomas would lose several efforts to rescind the condition excluding it from
participation in Diocesan Convention and the general government of the Episcopal
Church. It was not until the Convention of 1 863 that it was fully admitted to
Convention. 21 The condition placed on the reception of St. Thomas into the Episcopal
Church was a mark of the denominations' reluctance to accept Afro- Anglicans as full
members of their communion. St. Thomas' enduring struggle for full participation in the
church foretold generations of ongoing struggle by Afro- Anglicans for this in the
St. Thomas African Episcopal Church, Absalom Jones, and Richard Allen are also
significant for the character and nature of their ministries to the community of
Philadelphia. They saw the Black church as an "impregnable corner of the world where
20 Bragg, 63.
21 Bragg, 68.
consolation, solidarity, and mutual aid could be found. . ." 22 Worshipping God,
instructing youth and care of the poor were core purposes of these congregations.
New Fruit: St. Philips Episcopal Church, New York City
Other African Episcopal congregations that would develop in Baltimore and New York
City would replicate their legacy of ministering to the needs of the community inside and
outside their congregations. St. Philips, New York City was founded in 1818 having
developed as a mission of Trinity Parish, New York City. Trinity Parish and its African
members worked to nurture the development of a sustainable congregation for Afro-
Anglicans in New York City. Its first minister, Peter Williams, was a lay reader formed at
Trinity Parish. The congregation, like St. Thomas, was not fully accepted into the
Diocese of New York. Thirty-four years passed before St. Philips was a full member in
the diocese. St. Philips mirrored the outreach and advocacy of St. Thomas. Its rector,
Peter Williams, and other members were outspoken abolitionist and opponents of the
colonization movement which sought to "repatriate" Africans in America to Liberia. 24 St.
Philips also was the midwife of several ministers and church leaders who were active in
the 19 th century, including Alexander Crummell, Samuel DeGrasse, and Samuel Vreeland
St. James First African Church & Question of Bondage
22 Terpak, 15,
23 Extract of Letter from Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia to Granville Sharp. August 27, 1791, 4.
24 Lewis, 32.; Carter G. Woodson, History of the Negro Church (Washington, D.C.: Association Publishers,
25 Bragg, 86.
St. James First African Church in Baltimore, Maryland was the first Afro-
Anglican congregation established below the Mason-Dixon Line marking the geopolitical
boundary between North and South. Founded in 1827, its location in a slaveholding state
underscores the significance of the missionary work of its first minister William
Levington. Levington was ordained in St. Thomas, Philadelphia and his ministry, mission
and leadership are particularly significant because of his commitment to include slave
and free Africans in the life of St. James First African Church. This vision was shared by
the Bishop, and also resisted by some of the free Africans of the congregations.
Levington dealt squarely with the difference of class, color and caste within the
community of Blacks in Baltimore. His ministry was characterized by Bragg in this
Mr. Levington was a young man about thirty years of age, and he had thrust upon
him in addition to the matter of gaining a support and erection of a building, one
of the knottiest problems that could have been presented. He had not taken upon
himself the mission southward for the purpose of establishing a "chapel of ease,"
simply for free Negroes, but to help and benefit the entire race, bond and free. 26
Questions and objections were raised by free members of the congregations as to "why
we have constituted our brethren members of the Church and entitled them to vote, who
are in bondage." Levington and the vestry answered with verses from Gal. 3-28, 1 Cor.
7:22, and Acts 10: 34-35 affirming the unity of free and slave. They noted the wishes of a
significant donor that a church and school be built for the "benefit of the African race
forever." They noted too the donations of people from Baltimore, New York, Boston,
Troy, Hartford, Albany, and Philadelphia. Lastly, they cited the desires of the Bishop
who supported the establishment of St. James. They indicated that he "met with a number
of us in the church, and told us that the great object in erecting the church was that both
bond and free might serve God and prepare for another world; and above all people in the
world he thought we ought to be most united." The rationale for affirming the united
ministry of a church and school for free and slave was concluded with words from Heb.
13:3, "[N]o, we will remember them that are in bonds as bound with them ourselves."
Like St. Thomas and St. Philips, St. James also shaped the call to ministry in several
clergypersons. Bragg observes that St. James' day school "exerted a marvelous influence
in the community" despite the congregation's relative small size. St. James' First
African Church's discernment of its vocation to minister to slave and free foreshadowed
ongoing questions of social identity, class and mission for Afro- Anglicans and their
Emancipation & Evangelization of Newly Freed Africans
The Civil War and end of slavery was a crisis point for the Episcopal Church and
its relationship with Afro-Anglicans in the South. Its connection with the slaveholding
class and the compulsory affiliation of slaves to the Episcopal denomination led to a
massive exodus of Afro- Anglicans from its ranks. This was mirrored in other all the
Protestant denominations. Scholars estimate that two-thirds of Black church members in
the South left the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other denominations by 1866.
27 Bragg, 93-94.
28 Bragg, 95.
Only a small fraction remained in white denominations in 1871. 29 The relationship and
interplay between paternalism, social control and Christianity in the white-led
denominations made independent Black-led Baptist and Methodist congregations
attractive. 30 Lewis recognizes the breadth of knowledge by Afro-Anglicans of the
Episcopal Church's relationship and role in their enslavement and the peculiar institution
of slavery. 31 Those who remained in the Episcopal Church did so with a number of
considerations and motivations. Lewis writes,
Black Episcopalians who remained in the Episcopal Church knew well that it was
the church of the plantocracy, and that the planters had interpreted and adapted its
teachings so as to justify and perpetuate the institution of slavery. They knew well
that "it became the custom of plantation owners to take their slaves to Church . . .
because they thought religious would be a civilizing influence and thus make their
property easier to handle. Nevertheless, they also could understand that such uses
to which the Church had been put were not intrinsic to the doctrine of the
Episcopal Church, but instead were aberrations of it. Black Episcopalians
remained in the Church to recapture that intrinsic nature. 32
Lewis goes on to minimize the class and regional differences in the motivations to remain
connected to the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church's study of efforts to
evangelize Afro-Anglicans after the Civil War found few who returned to the
denomination. It also noted an association between social class and church affiliation.
Those remaining "had some education, some property and some social status." Others
such as Alexander Crummell noted that the Episcopal Church and Anglicanism had
29 Katharine Dvorak, An African-American Exodus: The Segregation of the Southern Churches (Brooklyn:
Carlson Publishing, 1991), 2.
30 Shattuck, 8.
31 Lewis, 40-45; Shattuck, 8-9.
32 Lewis, 59.
33 Lewis, 58; Journal of the General Convention (1877), 491.
particular attributes useful to the Afro-descended people in the United States in the
broader African Diaspora. 34
Freedman 's Commission & Freedmen 's Bureau
The Episcopal Church's first efforts to evangelize to Southern Blacks after the
Civil War included the creation of The Freedman' s Commission, modeled and named
after the federal government's Freedmen' s Bureau, which was charged with assisting,
educating and protecting the newly freed slaves. 35 The Freedman 5 s Commission focused
on creating schools for the newly emancipated Blacks living in the south. The last
surviving school it created is St. Augustine's College, founded originally as St.
Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute. 36 The work of the Freedman' s
Commission had minimal impact. It failed to connect its work in education with the
Church. This separation and failure to develop and support the development of Black
ordained leadership and models for post-slavery congregations paralyzed the
Commission. 37 Shattuck notes the conservative intentions of the Freedmen' s
Commission were grounded in a concern of fostering "social stability" in the South,
much like the mission to slaves in the antebellum era. 38 Less than a decade after
commencing, The Freedman' s Commission ended its work in 1874. Its report to the
General Convention noted the lack of "any sincere interest in this department of
34 Wilson Jeremiah Moses, Alexander Crummell: A Study of Civilization and Discontent (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1989), 26, 281-284.
35 Shattuck, 10.
36 Lewis, 49.
37 Lewis, 48-55.
38 Shattuck, 10.
beneficence." 39 Further, "diminishing concern for the spiritual affairs of black
southerners paralleled both the decline in the political importance of African Americans
and the waning of the federal Reconstruction Program." 40 Efforts to separate Afro-
Anglicans from being in full communion with the entire body of the Episcopal Church
dominated the agenda from throughout the Reconstruction period into the early twentieth
century. Crummell joined with others to create the Conference of Church Workers
Among Colored People. This body worked to respond to the efforts of some in the
Episcopal Church to further marginalize the remaining Afro-Anglicans in the South and
isolate those in the North. 41
Space does not allow me to detail the history of the Sewanee Conference and the
response of the Conference of Church Workers. The work of Crummell and the
Conference provides witness to the multi-layered rationale and commitment of Afro-
Anglicans to remain affiliated with the Episcopal Church despite an inhospitable
institutional environment as a significant and lasting legacy of Afro- Anglicans and their
Models of Dependency
39 Lewis, 52; Journal of the General Convention (1874) 505.
40 Shattuck, 11.
41 Following the Sewanee Conference, it was founded at Church of the Holy Communion in New York City
in 1883, and met in New York City in 1884, Richmond 1885, St. Luke's Washington DC 1886 and
regularly thereafter. The Union of Black Episcopalians traces its history, purpose and mission to the work
of the Conference of Church Workers Among Colored People. Bragg, 161; Shattuck, 4-29; Rodman, Let
There Be Peace Among Us, 8-12
The effect of this flawed Freedmen's Commission's missionary strategy is worthy
of consideration. This is particularly true of the creation and perpetuation of a culture of
dependency. This dependency manifested itself in various forms. Sometimes Afro-
Anglican congregations were attached to white parishes. They could also fall under the
full supervision and direction of the Bishop. 42 Both situations portray a body of Afro-
Anglicans gathered as a congregation without the status, rights and privileges of a parish.
This situation stands in direct contrast with St. Thomas African Episcopal Church,
Philadelphia, St. Philips, New York City, and St. James, Baltimore. These and other
early Afro-Anglican churches positioned themselves to be "self-supporting at the time of
inception." 43 Lewis underscores the impact of this dependency in referencing the
impressions of Bragg. Lewis writes,
This missionary strategy according to Bragg, had the effect of "discouraging and
disheartening ... the aspiring self-respecting of our group," and proved to have a
far-reaching and deleterious effect on the development of black congregations,
North and South, as black Episcopalians, believing that a bishop or a diocese was
morally bound to provide the church for them, readily accepted such largess even
when they were able to provide for themselves. 44
The internal development of resources to sustain the congregation can be
effectively impeded when countered by a sense of dependency on resources external to
the congregation. This false security of minimum expenditures by the dioceses allowed
Lewis, 53; Carol George, Segregated Sabbaths: Richard Allen and the Rise of Independent Black
Churches, 1760 - 1840 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 63.
43 Lewis, 53; Robert Bennett, "Black Episcopalians: A History from the Colonial Period to the Present" in
Historical Magazine of the Episcopal Church 43 (September 1974), 240; Thomas Will, "Liberalism,
Republicanism, and Philadelphia's Elite in the Early Republic: The Social Thought of Absalom Jones and
Richard Allen," Pennsylvania History, Vol. 69, No. 4 (Autumn 2002), 558-576.
44 Lewis, 53; George, 15, 236.
for the mere maintenance of ministry and squelched the possibility of the evolution of
vitality and viability for many mission churches. These dependent congregations did not
achieve the status of parish and thus did not have the autonomy needed to build a
sustainable and vibrant congregation. Bragg understood the importance of connecting
mission, ministry and leadership. He observed, "The work of building up from within,
into self-support and efficiency is peculiarly associated with the constructive leadership
of members of the group whose self-expression is attempted." 45
Afro-Anglican Churches & Early Urban Mission Models
Many Afro-Anglican parishes were established as missions. The role of Afro-
Anglicans in the mission institutional church movement is less known. Afro-Anglicans
joined Black Methodists, Presbyterians, Disciples of Christ, Quakers and others in the
movement of institutional churches, missions and settlement houses in urban areas
around the country. Their adaptation of the mission models used by the American
Mission Association and others in Reconstruction proved successful and warrants
mention. 46 Missions and settlement houses served to "reweave a deteriorating social
fabric." 47 "The New York Colored Mission, founded in 1865 as the African Sabbath
School Association was an expression of Quaker city mission philanthropy." In the
1870s it focused on social service functions such as a nursery, medical mission, housing
45 Lewis, 54; George, 49-50.
46 Ralph Luker. "Missions, Institutional Churches, and Settlement Houses: The Black Experience, 1885 *
1910," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 69, No. 3/4 (Summer -Autumn, 1984), 101-102, 105.
47 Luker, 103.
and employment bureau. 48 The Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion, Philadelphia and St.
Philips Episcopal Church, New York were two the earliest institutional churches along
with Berean Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and First Congregational Church in
Atlanta. 49 St. Philips is particularly interesting because of its heritage as the second
oldest Afro-Anglican congregation. St. Philips itself was birthed originally as a mission.
It then positioned itself for independence and became one of New York's first and rare
Black-led congregations. In it was established a home for elderly women in 1875, and a
Guild for young men which offered the opportunity for community youth to participate in
"glee club, amateur dramatics, and a remarkable athletic program, sponsoring track
teams, amateur boxing and the country's first black basketball team in 1908." 50 The
work of denominational institutional churches expanded to Abyssinian Baptist, Bethel
A.M.E. Metropolitan, and St. Mark's Methodist Episcopal by 1912. In fact, St. Cyprian's
Episcopal Mission in New York began to follow St. Philips' example. 51 These models
have a place in dialogue with the legacy of the Free African Society, St. Thomas African
Episcopal Church and St. James and provide a historical context for revisioning today's
Bringing Forward the Legacy of the Early Afro-Anglican Congregations
48 Luker, 102.
49 Luker, 105.
50 Luker, 107; Carla Peterson, Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-
Century New York City (New Haven: Yale University Press, 201 1).
51 Luker, 108.
I do not seek to provide a litany of the history of Afro-Anglican congregations.
Bringing the legacy of these parishes forward is needed, but is beyond the scope of this
paper. Rather, this brief history is a testimony of the extended presence of Afro-
Anglicans in the United States. It also underscores the legacy of concern of congregations
for the broader community. St. Thomas and St. Philips provide historic examples of
responsive congregational ministry, leadership and service. Many clergy and laypersons
played prominent roles as individuals in their local communities and scores impacted the
fields of politics, law, medicine, business, and education. A re-imagined Afro-
Anglicanism would necessitate grappling with the meaning of past and current
entitlement and class privilege. The current proposed revisioning seeks to identify,
develop and engage the constituent elements and processes needed to "envision a
community-based religiously oriented" network of congregations. 53
Chapter 3 - The Context of Today's Afro-Anglican Church
Having surveyed the history of the Afro- Anglican Church in the United States
through the early twentieth century, it is appropriate to explore critical aspects of its
current context. A significant aspect of this context is the increasing diversity of the
32 George Bragg's work of 1922 is the authoritative source during its time.
53 Edward Rodman, "Walk About Zion: An Overview of the Dynamics Affecting Urban Ministry in the
Black Episcopal Church," Anglican Theological Review Vol. LXXVI, No. 4 (Fall 1994), 445.
Afro-descended population in communities around the United States. This diversity of
nationalities and ethnicities within the United States reflecting the African Diaspora has
grown significantly since the early years of the twentieth century. Chapter 1 reviewed
the heritage of the Afro- Anglican Church predominantly through the lens of Black
descendants of the first two hundred years of slavery in the United States. These Black
descendants of African slavery represent the dominant narrative of the history and
heritage of Black people living in the United States from the colonial period to the
present. This narrative and the particular histories connected to it, however, is not the
only narrative of Afro-descended people in the United States or the Episcopal Church.
The immigration of Black people from the Caribbean and Africa has altered the
demographics of the Afro-descended population in the United States. It has also raised
questions about the meaning and definition of "Black" in many institutions and spaces
encountered by Black people. The Afro-Anglican Church is one of the multi-layered
spaces and institutions impacted by these changing demographics.
Migration & the "Meaning" of Blackness
Statistics do not exist to detail the racial and ethnic composition of congregations
in the Episcopal Church. Nonetheless, exploring the broader statistics of Afro-Caribbean,
African and Afro-Latino immigration within the Black population of the United States is
useful. It provides invaluable information for the environment and context within which
the Afro-Anglican and broader Black Church exists. Demographers considered the Black
community a closed population from 1808 through 1965 because of the limited voluntary
immigration of Afro-descended people during that period. The numbers of Blacks was
projected based on natural growth of the population within the United States. This
changed after the immigration reform in 1965.
The arrival of foreign-born black people began slowly in the 1960s, and it
increased steadily in succeeding decades. During the 1990s, some 900,000 black
immigrants entered the United States from the Caribbean and another 400,000
came from Africa, while Europe and Australia supplied still others, profoundly
altering the African American population. By the beginning of the twenty-first
century, more Africans had arrived than during the centuries of the slave trade.
Other peoples of African descent - particularly from the Caribbean -joined the
influx. The number of black immigrants was increasing faster than the number of
American born blacks, and, between 1990 and 2000, black newcomers accounted
for fully one-quarter of the growth of the African American population. Black
America, like white America, was also becoming an immigrant society. 5
The economic, political, and social meaning of these developments have only recently
been studied. The full implications of this demographic swing are beyond the scope of
this paper. The cultural significance is being lived out in many ways. The Catholic
Diocese of New York conducts services in Ashanti and Fante. Chicago now has
Cameroonian Independence Day and a Nigerian Festival at the DuSable Museum of
African American History. The impact of these demographic changes on the
neighborhoods and communities ministered to and served by Afro- Anglican
congregations calls on significant research that naturally flows from this data. 55 The
markers invite the observer to examine the data more closely. More than one in twenty
54 Ira Berlin, The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations (New York: Viking, 2010); U.S.
Census Bureau, Profile of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2000 (Washington, DC:
53 Frieder Ludwig and J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, ed., African Christian Presence in the West: New
Immigrant Congregations and Transnational Networks in North America and Europe (Trenton, NJ: Africa
World Press, 2011).
Afro-descended people living in the United States during the 2000 Census was an
immigrant. Nearly one in ten was an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. In some
cities, black immigrant population figures are twice this number. It is projected, with the
current rate of immigration, that the Afro-Caribbean population of New York City alone
will exceed the number of "native black New Yorkers." Currently, more than one-third
of the Black population consists of immigrants. 56
The Afro-Caribbean presence and contribution to life in the United States is not
new to Afro-Anglican congregations. Parishioners and clergy of Afro-Caribbean descent
have been key members and leaders of the Afro- Anglican congregations since the late
nineteenth century. The Oxford Movement in the United States formed missions among
people of color between 1890 and 1920 including urban communities with Afro-
Caribbean immigrants. The immigration of Afro-Caribbean people raised in the
Anglican Church helped to grow the Afro- Anglican congregations in Northern cities
during the Great Migration. 57 Ed Rodman refers to the historic immigration of Afro-
Caribbean peoples as the internal growing edge for the Afro-Anglican Church in the
United States. The post- 1965 immigration continues to build on the foundation of the
Caribbean immigration between World War I and 1965. He notes that the Afro-Latino
community from Central America is also a growing component of the diversity of the
56 Berlin, 7.
57 Rodman, "Walk About Zion," 452-453.
58 Rodman, 458.
A Framework for Reframing Migration, Hybridity & Narrative History
Ira Berlin provides a useful paradigm for approaching the diversity of the Afro-
descended population in the United States. He observes four migrations of Afro-
descended people as the source of the population and demographic shifts of Black people
in the United States. The first migration begins with the Middle Passage and the initial
enslavement of Africans in the United States. The second migration involved the forced
internal movement of African slaves from the eastern seaboard to the interior and Deep
South. The third migration is often referred to as the Great Migration and involved the
internal migration of Blacks from the South to the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast.
The most recent and continuing migration is that of newly emigrated Africans, Afro-
Caribbean, Afro-Latino, and Afro-descended people from Europe. This framework is
helpful in providing a timeline of the movement of Afro-descended people across and
within the boundaries of the United States. A significant aspect of Berlin's observation is
his interpretation of the implications of these migrations. He asserts that each migration
contributes to a narrative of the identity, legacy, and transformation of Afro-descended
people in the United States. Berlin asserts that additional strands based on recent
migration have joined the dominant narrative of slavery to freedom that informs and
frames the consciousness of many African Americans and Afro-descended people in the
United States. 59 In fact, each migration has forced new issues of identity, purpose and
meaning that included significant social, economic and political questions. This was true
when different African tribes were commingled with various nationalities and languages
and created a new identity in the United States. The forced internal migration from the
seaboard states to the interior and the Deep South created further differentiation and
pluralism among the Black population in the United States. This was further amplified
with the Great Migration that created identities and new realities and dynamics based on
geographic nuances of Blacks in the Northeast, Midwest, South and West. 60
The reconstruction of meaning and interpretation of Blackness against the
backdrop of place and movement continues and is part of the necessary work of Afro-
descended people and their institutions. Berlin's commentary on this work is compelling.
Each iteration of African American culture was a hybrid, and could only be
understood as the product of specific historical circumstances; it is always
changing. Men and women often tried to freeze those changes as they searched
for stability and permanence in a world of in constant motion by positing culture -
in this case "blackness" - as a timeless structure. But new circumstances
eventually demand new understandings. Those understandings - a new narrative
or history - tried to explain how and why the new people arrived where they were
and became who they were. Sometimes this has been a narrative of reproach:
what was done to us. Sometimes this has been a narrative of celebration: what we
did for ourselves. These narratives can be further divided: narratives of
abandonment (why God failed), narratives of salvation (why we were chosen),
narratives of edification, and so on. Movement demands a rethinking of identity;
hence new stories. 61
Rethinking the identity, meaning and emerging realities of the ever-changing Afro-
descended people in the United States is essential. It is required to position Black people
to deal with the social, economic, political and cultural challenges and opportunities of
60 Berlin, 31-48.
61 Berlin, 48.
their current reality. The Afro- Anglican Church is positioned to participate in this work.
Its extended history as a place of interaction, dialogue and communion between diverse
people of the African Diaspora is an asset. The work of transformation, reconciliation
and renewal is consistent with the vocation of the Church. It is not work that the clergy
and lay leaders are inherently equipped to do. A choice to engage new ways of being
involved in understanding is integral when moving beyond the false permanence and
stability of old frames and identity. Hybrid culture, cities and institutions require a
willingness to rethink and reframe. This is essential work for and transformation implicit
in hybrid culture and institutions. Furthermore, the Afro-Anglican Church is resourced
with liberative theologies that can aid people in dealing with their embodied narratives of
reproach, celebration, abandonment, edification and salvation.
Engaging Core Questions of Meaning, Mission Purpose & Identity
Rodman frames the essential choices facing Afro- Anglicans if they are to engage
the opportunity to participate in the transformation, reconciliation, healing and renewal of
the African Diaspora living within the United States. With this in mind preparatory work
must begin both within the boundaries of the Afro-Anglican Church and the fluid context
of the broader Black community. Rodman raises three questions for Afro- Anglicans that
go to heart of meaning, mission, purpose and identity. Rodman writes,
First, are we going to reclaim our heritage of being responsive to and responsible
for our communities; or are we going to abandon them and our heritage in the
name of progress and at the expense of our weaker and/or marginalized brothers
and sisters? Second, are we going to embrace our fellows of the Diaspora, be they
Caribbean, African, Central American, Canadian, British or an combination
thereof, and make common cause as the conscience of the Anglican Communion;
or are we going to resent their presence and allow that to become a cause of
divisiveness and competition? Third, are we going to explore Afro-Anglicanism
as a future model of cooperation and mutual support; or are we going to retreat
to a parochialism based on non-identification with our own, and fascination with
the minority Euro-centric world view? And finally, are we going to adopt a
fortress mentality, attempt to shore up the old bulwarks, each patch up our own
places and continue to wait for some future divine intervention that will restore
our own little Zions to their former glory; or are we to see a new vision of a new
heaven and a new earth, of a new lion that is not based on defenses against our
adversaries and build as a testimony to our pride, but rather constructed for
inclusive community and committed to collective and concerted action to redeem
God's people? 62
These fundamental questions frame the work of the Afro-Anglican Church to realize a
vision of a beloved community which is inclusive and undistracted from the work of
redemption and reconciliation. His questions provide an opportunity to envision an Afro-
Anglican Church which values mutuality and cooperation to move across parochial
boundaries of ethnicity and nationality. Acting on these intentions positions Afro-
Anglicans to be responsive to the communities and people who are among and around
them. It means dealing with class and other structural oppressions that subjugate the
vulnerable and marginalized members of the community. Implicit in this challenge is the
choice to move beyond the false choice of attempting to restore a period of class-
consciousness that is longstanding within many Afro- Anglicans and their
Repositioning Congregations to Be Community Responsive
62 Rodman, 462-463.
63 Willard Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color: The Black Elite, 1880 - 1920 (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1990), 272-299.
An Afro-Anglican Church positioned to be "responsive and responsible" for
today's Black communities must grapple not only with the diversity of the Afro-
descended people and communities in the United States, but with other demographic
shifts within these communities. A significant shift is the location where the majority of
Black people reside. More Blacks, Asians, Latinos, foreign-born immigrants and poor
people live in the suburbs of the nation's largest metropolitan areas than the primary core
cities. Additionally, the nation's largest metropolitan areas are increasing composed of
the young and of people color. Black, Latino and Asian youth constitute the majority of
people less than eighteen years of age in one hundred of the nation's largest metropolitan
areas. This is contrasted by an increase of whites in the primary cities of many of the
nation's largest metropolitan areas including New York City and Atlanta. Some are
concerned that these demographic shifts will lead to increased racial and ethnic
competition for public resources. These shifts have significant implications for the
ability of the Afro- Anglican congregations in many dioceses to thrive.
Shifts in Urban and Suburban Demographics
Many Afro- Anglican congregations are situated inside the primary cities of large
metropolitan areas. These congregations will have to revision their sense of mission and
ministry given the demographic shift that places a plurality of Blacks in the suburbs of
the largest metropolitan areas. This does not mean, however, that the Afro-Anglican
church does not have a role to play within the primary cities. Some of the metropolitan
areas may have lost Blacks to the suburbs, but continue to have large numbers of Blacks
within the primary city. Many of those remaining in the primary city may also be low-
income and poor Blacks. Detroit is an example of this phenomenon. Detroit lost 185,393
Black residents in the last decade. Much of population loss is due to decades of Black
flight to the suburbs. This exodus started in the 1960s. 64 Nonetheless, a significant Black
population remains with significant economic, social, and political needs. Some Afro-
Anglican churches may need to revision a new mission and ministry that includes whites,
Latinos not of African descent, and Asians living in newly gentrified areas that were
formerly predominantly Black. St. Luke's Episcopal Church and St. George's Episcopal
Church in Washington, D. C. face this phenomenon.
Washington's black population slipped below 50 percent this year, possibly in
February, about 51 years after it gained a majority . . . Their context has changed
in their immediate neighborhood and against the larger demographic shifts of the
city. But race and class issues often overlap, and as the city's demographics shift
— the white population jumped by 31 percent in the past decade, while the black
population declined by 1 1 percent — many less affluent blacks say they are
feeling left out of the city's improving fortunes. In April, the Census Bureau
reported that Ward 8, in the city's mostly poor and black southeast, had the
highest jobless rate in the country. 65
Similar dynamics were observed in parts of New York City. The Black population fell
and the white population grew in parts of Brooklyn, central Harlem and the Bronx. This
shift increased income and wealth gaps in neighborhoods and was aggravated by
^Katharine Seelye, "Detroit Census Confirms a Desertion Like No Other," The New York Times 23 March
65 Sabrina Taverse, "A Population Changes, Uneasily," New York Times, 17 July 201 1,
www.nvtimes.com/2011/07/18/us/18dc.html?%20black=&%20washington%20dc o /o20=&sq=2010%20cens
persistent racial segregation in New York's core city and suburban areas. 66
In 2000, on average, a black suburbanite lived in a neighborhood that was 47
percent black. In 2005-9, that neighborhood would have been 44 percent black,
the analysts found. In 1970, whites in the metropolitan area were likely to live in
a neighborhood that was 92 percent white, a figure that declined to 76 percent in
2000, and to 73 percent in 2005-9. "New York is among a group of metropolitan
regions," Professor Logan said, "where the Great Migration created large black
ghettos, and where very high levels of segregation have proved very resistant to
These demographic shifts, which include persistent segregation and income inequality,
represent structural challenges to the opportunity for Blacks and Latinos to access
healthcare, education, and job opportunities. 68
High Rates of Long-term Unemployment
The current economic reality within the Black communities of the United States
continues to erode. Blacks continue to face disproportionately high rates of
unemployment, which make it difficult for African Americans to overcome the effects of
poverty and the related challenges of long-term unemployment. The high to extremely
high rates of unemployment for Blacks is part of a fifty year trend. The highest rates of
unemployment for Whites in the most recent years fall within the range of the lowest
rates for African Americans over the last fifty years. African Americans have had
extremely high unemployment that has been only "occasionally interrupted by periods of
66 Sam Roberts, "Region Is Reshaped as Minorities Go to Suburbs," New York Times 14 Dec. 2010,
www.nytimes.com/20 10/12/1 5/nyregion/ 1 5nycensus.html?scp=5&sq=20 1 0%20census%20&%20new%20
68 Sheryll Cashin, The Failures of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream
(New York: Public Affairs 2004), 237-260.
merely high unemployment." African Americans have not experienced a period of low
unemployment for the last fifty years. 69 The recent figures cited by the Economic Policy
Institute are equally troubling:
• In 2007, before the recession, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City,
Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and St. Louis metropolitan areas all had
black unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher.
• In 2010, Detroit, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis all had black
unemployment rates of 20 percent or higher, comparable to the peak national
unemployment rates during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Income Gap: Black & White Unemployment
High unemployment relative to whites is a shared phenomenon between native
and foreign-born Blacks. "At 12.4%, black immigrants had the highest unemployment
rates among foreign-born works in 2010," Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy
Institute observed, "Because this disadvantage in the labor market affects both U.S. - and
foreign-born blacks, it points to a problem that stems from race and not cultural
background." 71 Equally troubling is the erosion of the Black middle class.
It is also sobering to examine the racial difference in wealth trends. Wealth for the
median black household has nearly disappeared, falling from $6,300 in 1983 to
$2,200 in 2009 - a decrease of more than 65 percent. This means half of black
households have less than $2,200 in wealth. Among white households, median
wealth has fallen substantially since 2007, but at $97,900, remains higher than the
1983 level of $94,100. White median wealth is now 44.5 times higher than black
69 Algernon Austin, "For African Americans, 50 years of High Unemployment," Economic Policy Institute,
Economic Snapshot: Race and Ethnicity, February 22, 2012, http://www.epi.org/publication/african-
70 Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute: Issue Brief #315, October 3, 2011, 1.
71 Austin. "Blacks Have Highest Unemployment Among Foreign Born Workers" Economic Policy Institute
Economic, Snapshot: Immigration, August 3, 2011,
Education Gap & Impact of Mass Incarceration on Black Communities
Black high school students have the lowest graduation rates of 61 .5%. 73 The
combination of the decline in the Black middle class and the continued academic
achievement gap between Blacks and whites pose significant challenges for the mobility,
flourishing and opportunity of Blacks in the United States. 74 Perhaps the greatest current
challenge to Black families, communities and institutions is the mass incarceration of
Black men. The United States leads all countries in the rate of imprisonment of its racial
and ethnic minorities. Despite the fact that whites are more likely to use and sell illegal
drugs, Black men are incarcerated at rates twenty to fifty times the rate of white men in
fifteen states. Blacks constitute eighty to ninety percent of those imprisoned in seven
states. This troubling statistic is overshadowed when viewed against a focused view of
massive incarceration in major cities ensnared by the War on Drugs. These communities
witness eighty percent of young Black men with criminal records. In summary, 2006
records show that one in every fourteen Black men was imprisoned. This is contrasted
against a rate of one in every 106 white men. Particularly disturbing is the rate for young
Black men wherein one in nine Black men between the ages of twenty and thirty-five
Lawrence Mischel, htt p://www.epi.org/publication/trends-median-wealth-race/. September 21, 201 1.
73 Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2011 Report,
www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-of-americas-20 1 1 .pdf.
74 The Opportunity Agenda, The State of Opportunity in America 2009 Report Summary, 6.
were behind bars. This does not include those on parole or probation. 75 Here too lies an
opportunity for the Afro-Anglican Church to be responsive to the needs of Black
communities. People who are incarcerated and those returning to their families and
neighborhoods after prison are too often marginalized by all parts of the community.
Those trapped by mass incarceration live in the intersection of race and class. The
implications for appropriate policy strategy approaches to address policy gap for low-
income Black people warrants separate consideration. The pain and groaning for
compassion, redemption and reconciliation embodied in the reality for too many Black
men and youth is part of the environmental, material, historical and spiritual context of
the New Jim Crow. This could be the place for the communities of faith and churches to
exercise responsibility. Scripture suggests that Christians and the church are called to act.
What else is necessary beyond the Gospel for moving the church toward discerning its
role in this reality?
Ad Hoc Clergy Committee: Examples of Revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church
A committee of Afro- Anglican clergy conducted an integrated and holistic survey
and vision for the Afro-Anglican Church and broader Episcopal Church in 1968.
Authored by Joseph Nicholson, on behalf of the Ad Hoc Clergy Committee, What is
Happening to the Negro in the Protestant Episcopal Church provides a model for
corporate discernment, advocacy and strategic planning that is urgently needed to
75 Michele Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York:
The New Press, 2010), 7, 96-98; Herbert Thompson, Let My People Go (Cincinnati: Forward Movement,
revision the Afro- Anglican Church. 76 Updating this report and replicating its holistic
approach is a contemplated extension of this current project. It is essential work to clarify
the current context of the Afro- Anglican Church and its related communities of concern.
Another part of task of revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church should include a survey of
the location of Afro-Anglican congregations in the largest metropolitan areas. Mapping
the presence of Afro- Anglican congregations in primary core cities and those located in
the suburbs is a significant step in helping Afro-Anglicans enhance their capacity to be
responsive to community needs. The map of Afro- Anglican congregations should be
correlated with a survey and map of the members of the congregation and the
demographics makeup in the areas contiguous with the location of the congregations and
its members. This information is not available for this author to incorporate into this
project. The interpretation of this information along with the listening and discernment of
community needs can assist Afro-Anglican congregations in answering the questions
posed earlier by Rodman that go to the heart of meaning, mission, purpose and identity of
the Afro- Anglican Church.
Report of the Coalition of Urban Bishops
The proposed discernment, listening and visioning can be modeled and adapted
from that used by the Coalition of Urban Bishops of the Episcopal Church in 1977.
76 Joseph Nicholson, What is Happening to the Negro in the Protestant Episcopal Church? (Ad Hoc Clergy
Conducted during a period of sustained diocesan and government funding for urban
ministry, the published report provides a framework for local parishes to replicate. 77 This
is important to note as the current funding and programmatic capacity of the National
Episcopal Church and current foundation funding priorities may restrict the national
replication of the model. Local, regional and diocesan level discernment of the felt needs
of people in the metropolitan areas remains a valuable step in the Church acting
responsively and responsibly in mutual relationship with communities and
Addressing Racism & RacialJustice
The Ad Hoc Clergy Committee, What is Happening to the Negro in the Protestant
Episcopal Church and the development of the Union of Black Episcopalians provided a
call to action for the Episcopal Church. 78 Rodman has been one of the leaders
consistently renewing the call to the Episcopal Church to grapple with its role in
addressing institutional and structural racism and address racial justice, reconciliation and
healing. 79 Today's context involves an increased presence of African, Afro-Latino, and
Afro-Caribbean immigrants. The growing transnational context of the Black community
in the United States deserves additional theological consideration. What is the meaning of
77 The Urban Bishops Coalition, To Hear and to Heed: The Episcopal Church Listens and Acts in the City
(Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications, 1978).
78 Ed Rodman, Let There Be Peace Among Us: A Story of the Union of Black Episcopalians
(Lawrence ville, VA: Brunswick Publishing Corporation, 1990).
79 Ed Rodman, "A Lost Opportunity? An Open Letter to the Leadership of the Episcopal Church" in To
Heal the Sin-Sick Soul: Toward a Spirituality of Anti-Racist Ministry ed. Emmett Jarrett (New London, CT:
The Episcopal Urban Caucus, 1996, 2003), 66, 78.
Blackness today? How do African descended people identify themselves in relationship
to each other? What is their relationship to the political, economic and cultural
Diasporic Black Communities
Afro-descended people living in the multi-national, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic
setting of the United States and in the multicultural context of Black communities
constantly negotiate fluid boundaries. The interaction among Africans, Afro-Caribbean,
Afro-Latinos, and African Americans is not new. The scale of immigration over the last
twenty years increased the regularity and nature of the diasporic interaction. The scale
and location of the interaction warrants consideration of a hermeneutic from below.
Theological reflection about ways to mediate the multiplicity of identities is not widely
exercised. Instead, African descended people living in the United States are often
essentialized as having a universal experience and context. The Afro-Anglican Church
can develop new analytic approaches that recognize the complexity of identities arising
from the diasporic community*®
DuBois' Double Consciousness & the Church
W.E.B. DuBois may also be helpful in reconsidering the African diasporic
context of urban Black Afro-Anglican congregations. The application of looking at
hybridity in Afro- Anglican Church can be seen in Kortright Davis' "Black Anglican
Congregations." He frames the discussion of the hybridity of the these congregations
Ania Loomba, Colonialism/Postcolonialism (New York: Routledge, 1998), 176.
with DuBois' concept of "double consciousness " u The discussion of the needed
negotiation of the constantly moving identity of Afro- Anglicans has implications for
postcolonial theological discursive action. He writes:
There are those who are quick to remind us that, while all Episcopalians are
Anglicans, all Anglicans are not Episcopalians. But the existence of the color line
in the Episcopal Church, as well as the spiritual, social, and moral vitality of
blacks as minority members in a white church, is still a problem. What does one
do with the double-consciousness of being African, and American today? Further,
what does none do with the triple consciousness of being African, American (or
resident in the United States), and Episcopalian? This poses a possible dilemma
for many Afro-Anglicans, who - for better or worse - must also recognize and
respond to their identity as members not only of the black community but also of
the black church (at least in a mystical and emotional way). 82
Grappling with the significance of these questions is important given the overlay of the
dynamics and demographics within the Episcopal Church. Ed Rodman cogently sets the
Underlying this paradigm shift is our understanding of our own place in the
growing cultural diversity which is America, as well as the Episcopal Church.
This cuts two ways. Internally, our growing edge as Black Episcopalians is to be
found primarily in first and second generation Afro-Caribbean immigration,
which has built upon the strong foundation laid by their forebears in urban centers
on the east coast since World War I. This is a augmented by their Central
American cousins . . . The final component of this internal diversity is the
significant number of Africans, both clergy and lay, who have immigrated to this
country in the past ten years. Indeed, many of our churches are becoming
microcosms of Afro-Anglicanism without even knowing the term, much less
being self-conscious in pursuing its objectives. 83
Davis, Kortright, "Black Anglican Congregations" in In Praise of Congregations: Leadership in the
Local Church Today, ed. Charles E. Bennison, Jr. (Boston: Cowley Publications 1999), 164-165.
82 Davis, 165.
83 Rodman, "Walk About Zion," 457-458.
The intercultural difference within the Afro-Anglican Church is clearly a diasporic
context. It is multi-layered and centered in multiple points of identity. An opportunity
exists within these settings to explore meaning, identity, autonomy and purpose.
Afro-Anglicanism: Theological Response to Internal Diversity
Afro-Anglican liberation theological frames and approaches exist which can
inform continued exploration of the dialectic between traditional Anglicanism and Afro-
Anglican liberation theology. 84 A liberation Eucharist exists with symbols and language
that embodies a commitment to mutual respect, self-love and self-affirmation that
incarnates the use of power resists oppression - including internalized oppression. The
presentations of the Conference on Afro- Anglicanism in 1985 held at Codrington,
College in Barbados are worth revisiting to explore the ways the Afro-Anglican Church
can further enhance a theology which assist it in fulfilling its commitment to meeting the
social and economic development needs of the community through its religious
congregations, meeting the need for community solidarity, fulfilling the spiritual needs,
and countering the oppression of race, class, gender, sexual orientation and other
interlocking oppressions. 85 Fulfillment of this vision requires recognition of the value of
building communities that are touchstones and "sign posts" of the "way" associated with
Christianity as a lived manner of living and relationship. Building on contextual
liberation theologies to develop approaches, rituals, and spiritual practices that assist
84 Rodman, "Afro-Anglican Catechesis" Conference on Afro-Anglicanism, Codrington College, Barbados,
June 17-22, 1985,3.
85 Rodman, "Walk About Zion," 445, 463-464.
Afro-Anglicans and Black diasporic communities to effectively appreciate and negotiate
their cultural, theological, economic, and political differences so as to build a unity within
the diversity is critical to revisioning the Afro- Anglican Church. 86 The emerging identity
of the Afro-descended people living in the United States offers the Afro- Anglican Church
an opportunity to equip these communities to hear the various narratives contained within
and understand the connections or sinews that connect diverse populations of Black
people. This listening will also require space to affirm the particularities of differences
and nuances stemming from cultural differences. Concerns about identity of the
community and Afro-Anglican Church raise significant issues needing attention and
clarification. They are best engaged as Afro- Anglican congregations clarifying their
purpose and vision. This will allow them to respond to the needs of the Afro-descended
community with revitalized ministries, programs, service and leadership.
Chapter 4 Discernment, Leadership & Praxis for Change & Transformation
Ed Rodman best articulates the pathway to the goal of inclusivity and renewal
required to leverage the potential of the Afro-Anglican Church to be a transformed and
transforming presence in the challenging and diverse context of today's diverse Black
communities. He writes:
Many of our congregations throughout the Anglican Communion have some of
the best educated, talented minds in the world, and not to use them to attack the
Rodman, "Afro-Anglican Catechesis," 2-6.
problems of the community is a sacrilege - not to mention an insult to their
intelligence and ability. In this sense, our goal should be to build Christian
communities that are inclusive and representative of the diversity of the
communities in which we live, that draw upon the weaknesses and problems of
the dispossessed in order to challenge the creativity and the talent of the powerful
and the strong. Modeling such inclusivity and renewal becomes a paradigm for
the world community that cherishes differences - supports healing - and has
confidence in the gifts that God has given us all. 87
Realizing the paradigm of building inclusive Christian communities that use their
gifts and talents to be responsive to the needs of the vulnerable and dispossessed,
challenging institutions, systems, and powers and supporting healing and reconciliation
involves actualizing a vision of liberation, love, justice and transformation. It requires
the living into the meaning of the contextual liberation theologies previously discussed.
Such a paradigm does not happen sua sponte, but rather through active discernment
linked with effective leadership. Inspiring and developing shared visions, which move
communities toward the realization of transformation and renewal, requires communities
to learn, develop, and sustain leadership. Many models of leadership exist and can be
used to promote new paradigms of learning and being. Space does not allow me to
address the multitude of approaches that can advance the agenda of transforming the
Afro- Anglican Church. This project will therefore identify some fundamental elements
needed in engaging in envisioning and living into new possibilities. This type of
revisioning is itself a foundational leadership behavior needed for change and renewal.
Rodman, "Afro- Anglican Catechesis," 15.
This thesis opened with a picture of All Soul's Episcopal Church in Harlem with
the belief that identifying and naming the lived experiences and challenges of Afro-
Anglican congregations is an important step in revisioning for renewal. Like many other
Episcopal congregations, too many Afro-Anglican congregations face significant
challenges to their viability, survival, and capacity to minister in the context of their
immediate neighborhoods and broader communities. "Being church" for these
congregations exists as separate and related questions of mission, vision and
congregational development. Much of the challenge they face is beyond the technical
challenges of prior years. The Black Episcopal presence exists in a postcolonial context
of being both Black Episcopalian and Afro- Anglican. This increasingly global context is
reflected in predominantly and historically Black congregations with African American,
Afro-Caribbean, and African heritage. Multiple understandings of polity and
congregational leadership are postmodern realities for Afro- Anglican congregations.
Adaptive leadership is needed to actualize the opportunities framed by those new
realities. The practice of exemplary adaptive leadership is equally needed in addressing
the graying pews, aging infrastructure, shrinking resources and rapidly changing
The Case for Developing Adaptive Leadership in the Church
The practice of adaptive leadership is centered on mobilizing people to "tackle
tough challenges and thrive." It specifically focuses on supporting change that enables
people and organizations to enhance their capacity to thrive. Experts on adaptive
leadership discuss the practice as extending from work on leadership, adaptation, systems
and change. 88 Competency in adaptive leadership is critical for the transformation of the
Afro-Anglican Church. This transformation is not aimed merely at survival. The goal of
filling the pews and increasing the membership base, budget and resources is not the
purpose of the change and intervention proposed. Rather, Afro-Anglicans are called to
grapple with questions of mission, ministry, worship and service to do the work of
justice, healing, peace building and transformation in the world and church. Adaptive
leadership practice equips people to grapple with the underlying questions, issues and
dynamics essential for this type of change. Adaptive leaders must deal with questions of
value, purpose and process. These core questions parallel the challenge of clarifying
mission and ministry. These questions, placed in the context of the interrelated
challenges and postmodern context of Afro-Anglican congregations, are beyond the
scope of technical challenges. Technical challenges can be addressed through the
application of expertise and refining current structures and procedures. Technical
challenges are susceptible to refining the way work is being conducted. Adaptive
challenges differ from technical challenges in that their resolution requires changes in
priorities, beliefs, habits and loyalties. 89 This necessarily involves displacement, changing
and rearranging foundational aspects of the community or organization practicing
adaptive leadership. The practice of adaptive leadership assists in identifying, naming,
88 Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and
Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009), 13-14.
Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 19.
and addressing the loss created in meeting the adaptive challenge.
Applying Adaptive Leadership to Congregational Settings
The adaptive leadership lens is particularly attractive in the congregational setting
because of the hard wiring of ways of being reinforced by relationships, heritage and
history. The proponents of adaptive leadership stress that the approach respects the past.
A challenge for adaptive leadership, then, is to engage people in distinguishing
what is essential to preserve from their organizations heritage from what is
expendable. Successful adaptations are thus both conservative and progressive.
They make the best possible use of previous wisdom and know-how. The most
effective leadership anchors change in the values, competencies, and strategic
orientations that should endure in the organization. 90
This challenge requires a level of communication that extends beyond traditional
discussion. It is an engagement built on trust and relationship. It is also more than
relationship building. It requires a degree of understanding of organizational
development, leadership, and human development. Pointing to the value of the past while
promoting a culture of adaptive leadership can be invaluable in addressing anxieties
around loss of essential aspects of the community. Adaptive challenges require learning
by the stakeholders to define the problem and craft solutions. 91 An essential approach to
facilitating the process of stakeholders defining and crafting solutions is listening to the
needs of the stakeholders and assisting them in their own listening capacity. These are
critical tools of discernment. I posit that a praxis-based Afro-Anglican approach to
discernment is critical for the development of adaptive leadership in Afro-Anglican
Heifetz, Grashow, andLinsky,15.
Heifetz, Grashow, and Linsky, 20.
congregations. Transformation requires the ability of institutions and systems to change.
Dynamic and transforming systems are open, adaptable and willing to change.
Congregations as Learning Community: A Path to Metanoia
My vision for the Afro-Anglican Church engaged in dynamic revisioning is one
that is open to change and transformation and capable of incorporating the feedback and
learning. For too long congregations have focused on maintaining buildings and the
infrastructure and administration to sustain a limited realization of the mission of the
church that too often emphasizes the spiritual well-being of its members. As a learning
community, the revisioned Afro- Anglican Church is capable of the metanoia or shift of
mind essential to this significant paradigm shift from inward-looking Church to a
mission-shaped Church that begins by looking at the world. 92 The capacity of Afro-
Anglican Churches to value their heritage while learning from the emerging future is a
one of the competencies of discernment needed in today's dynamically changing and
multi-centered context. 93 This invaluable competency involves listening to the most
marginalized, unpopular and oppressed.
Chapter 5 A Promising Congregational Visioning Process: Church of the Holy Spirit
Having described the role and application of developing adaptive leadership and
the role of the learning for congregational visioning, I will now discuss a concrete
92 Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 2006),
93 C. Otto Schwarmer, Theory U: Leading From the Future as It Emerges (San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler,
example of such a holistic and integrated model. A replicable approach for the visioning
and reimagining of the Afro-Anglican church is being developed and executed at the
Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts. Church of the Holy
Spirit is currently undergoing a visioning and strategic planning process, which is
ongoing at this writing. The qualitative value of its outcome is yet to be determined.
Nonetheless, the design and guiding principles provide sufficient substance to warrant
consideration in a broader context. I will give a brief description of the congregation to
situate the relevance of its visioning and planning process to the broader Afro-Anglican
Church. This will be followed by a discussion of the elements of the Church of the Holy
Spirit's planning process and a description of the praxis of its strategic plan.
Why Church of the Holy Spirit? A History & Context
Church of the Holy Spirit celebrated its 125 th anniversary in 201 1 and sits in the
heart of Mattapan Square. Founded at a time when Mattapan and the surrounding
communities were predominantly white, the congregation and the proximate
neighborhoods in Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury are today heavily Black. The
congregation's transition from being a white parish to an Afro- Anglican congregation
followed the population shifts in Mattapan that began in the 1960s. The assembled
congregation of Church of the Holy Spirit is Afro- Anglican and includes people from the
African Diaspora. The majority of the members are Afro-Caribbean with a smaller
number of African Americans and Africans. The Afro-Caribbean members represent a
broad range of English-speaking islands, Haiti, and Latin American countries such as
Honduras, Costa Rico, and Panama. Church of the Holy Spirit reflects the growing
numbers of Haitian and Afro-Caribbean immigrants to the Boston neighborhood of
Mattapan. Mattapan is contiguous with Dorchester and Roxbury and each is largely
Black and Latino with significant socioeconomic challenges. 94 The congregation has
nearly three hundred households on its membership rolls. Its ministries include after-
school tutoring, a senior program for immigrants and English classes for Haitian
immigrants. The congregation runs an independent non-profit corporation which
operates the church-owned Senior Housing and a separate building adjoining the church
which houses Head Start and the Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD).
Church of the Holy Spirit sits on the executive committee for Mattapan United. Funded
by Local Initiative Support Corporation's Resilient Communities/Resilient Families
Initiative, Mattapan United was created in 201 1 to improve the life chances and
environment of the residents living in Mattapan.
The congregation is concerned that its youth ministry and young adult presence
could be stronger. Church of the Holy Spirit is also witnessing an increased number of
aging members in need of pastoral care and elder services. The leadership seeks to
enhance the congregation's current programmatic outreach, ministry and service to
95 ABCD is the convening organization for Mattapan United which includes the following partner
organizations: Mattapan Food and Fitness; SPARK/Boston Medical Center; Mattapan Community Health
Center; Boston Nature Center; Haitian American Public Health Initiatives; Church of the Holy Spirit;
Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Community. The organization's community vision: "Mattapan
United envisions community grassroots engagement that creates an identity of Mattapan as a dynamic,
desirable place to live, work and visit."
Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury. Furthermore, it seeks to leverage its location in the
heart of Mattapan Square and open church-owned land for increased community
presence, service and impact. Church of the Holy Spirit's visioning and planning takes
places against this background.
Visioning & Planning As a Learning Community
I worked with Rev. Zenetta Armstrong, Rector of Holy Spirit, to co-create a
holistic and integrative visioning and planning process for Church of the Holy Spirit.
The process seeks to reinforce the importance of discernment of the congregation's
vocation by structuring opportunities to engage the entire congregation in dialogue. It
draws upon the guiding principles of the learning organization or community concept to
foster an environment where the congregation can collectively understand and apply
lessons of adaptive leadership. A primary principle of learning organizations is nurturing
new patterns of thinking, unleashing a collective vision and learning that foster alignment
between vision, mission, and systems.
The design of the process differs from many strategic planning approaches
because it incorporates leadership development and learning opportunities in the
visioning process. Each session includes learning objectives informed by the five
disciplines articulated by Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the
Learning Organization. They include systems thinking, personal mastery, mental
96 Rev. Zenetta Armstrong's twenty-year tenure as rector includes a ten-year period as co-rector,
overseeing Church of the Holy Spirit's transition from a predominantly white parish to an Afro- Anglican
97 Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (New York: Doubleday Currency, 1990, 2006), 13-14.
models, building shared vision, and team learning. Systems thinking allows people to
understand that churches, business, government and other human endeavors involve
relationships to patterns and actions that are visibly and invisibly connected. Personal
mastery as a discipline acknowledges the importance of continually clarifying,
deepening, and focusing our energies on our personal vision. It recognizes the
importance of creating space for individuals to identify and articulate their highest
personal aspirations. Mental models are generalizations and assumptions that influence
the way people understand the world. These understandings influence the actions and
decisions of individuals and organizations. The discipline of recognizing mental models
helps people to "unearth our internal pictures of the world" and bringing them into
"learningful conversations." Building shared visions affirms the value of deeply shared
goals, values, and missions. Team learning starts with dialogue that rewards and
reinforces the suspension of assumptions to exercise authentic "thinking together."
Senge's model of learning organizations emphasizes that disciplines are not best practices
developed, measured, and implemented by others. Disciplines are developmental
pathways to help people and organizations gain proficiency and competency in
knowledge, skills and attitudes identified as necessary for one particularized context."
The discussion of the church as a learning community is a topic of discussion by clergy,
theologians, and congregational development consultants. The visioning model
discussed herein attempts to discover and explore the application of experimentation and
innovation using this paradigm. 1
Leadership as Everyone 's Business: Ordained & Laity
The Church of the Holy Spirit's visioning process recognizes the challenges of
problematizing and transforming traditional notions of leadership and agency within
traditional congregations. During my initial consultation with the positional leadership,
the rector expressed a desire for greater involvement of the congregation's membership in
the ministries, programs, service, operations, and community engagement of church. The
vestry identified the challenge of "the same people doing all the work." These
observations highlighted the need to incorporate leadership development and capacity
building into the of the visioning process. Each session incorporates the principles and
values embedded in the five leadership behaviors developed by Barry Posner and James
Kouzes in The Leadership Challenge model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge
the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart. 101
The behaviors intersect well with the five disciplines of the learning organization:
systems thinking, personal master, shared vision, mental models, and team learning. The
applications for congregations are explored in Kouzes and Posner' s Christian Reflections
100 See Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge ed. James Kouzes and Barry Posner (San
Francisco: Josey-Bass, 2004); Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook and Fredrica Harris Thompsett, Born of Water,
Born of Spirit: Supporting the Ministry of the Baptized in Small Congregations (Herndon, VA: The Alban
Institute, 2010), 95-98; Norma Cook Everist, The Church as Learning Community: Comprehensive Guide
to Christian Education (Nashville: Abington Press, 2002); Dennis Campbell, Congregations as Learning
Communities: Tools for Shaping Your Future (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2000); Thomas Hawkins.
The Learning Congregation: A New Vision of Leadership (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press,
101 Kouzes and Posner, 14-25.
on The Leadership Challenge and underscored in Kujawa-Holbrook and Thompsett's
Born of Water, Born of Spirit: Supporting Ministry of the Baptized in Small
Congregations} 01 Particularly useful to Church of the Holy Spirit is the training module
developed by Kouzes and Posner entitled Leadership is Everyone 3 s Business. The
module is easily tailored and adapted to particularized context. It uses the Leadership
Practices Inventory (LPI) to assist individuals in identifying their leadership strengths by
assessing how often they engage in identified behaviors that support effective leadership.
References to these behaviors are made in the working session of the visioning.
Additional application of the behaviors and training module will be discussed later.
Liberating a Congregation 's Visioning with Guidelines
Each session of the visioning process involves a discussion of guidelines that
govern individual and group behavior during the convening. Church of the Holy Spirit
elected to adopt the "Guidelines for Recognizing and Valuing Differences" developed by
VISIONS, Inc. 103 The "Guidelines for Recognizing and Valuing Difference" are
invaluable to a visioning process for a congregation seeking to discern God's work of
transformation, reconciliation, and renewal. 104 The guidelines are incorporated in the
102 Kuj awa-Holbrook and Thompsett, 100-101.
103 VISIONS guidelines ask participants to try on processes and content that might be new and different;
it's okay to disagree, it's not okay to blame, shame, attack, oneself others; practice self-focus; practice
"both/and" thinking; be aware of intent and impact; take 100 percent responsibility for one's own learning;
104 William Kondrath, God's Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences (Herndon, VA: The
Alban Institute, 2008), 3-4.
pedagogy of the Episcopal Divinity School. William Kondrath explores their application
for congregations in God's Tapestry: Understanding and Celebrating Differences } QS
Initial Consultation with Congregational Leadership
The visioning process began with consultation with the rector and the facilitator in
order to identify the aims, goals, and desired outcomes for the process. It also provided
context for the current visioning. Similar consultation was conducted between the
facilitator and the wardens of the vestry. This dialogue further informed the assessment of
the congregational perspective about the perceived value of a visioning process.
Consulting with the rector and wardens separately provided invaluable information for
the elements, principles and content needed to support the aspirations of the clergy and
lay leadership for the process and resulting plan.
Design of Model & Process
The desire for a holistic and integrated model incorporating the above-mentioned
elements led to the identification of the learning organization, Kouzes & Posner's
leadership behaviors, and the VISIONS guidelines as foundational components of the
plan. These sources do not explicitly address the spiritual and religious context of
congregational visioning. George Thompson's Futuring Your Church: Finding Your
Vision and Making It Work was selected to further inform the development of the
105 Kondrath recommends that churches add two additional guidelines to the VISIONS guidelines: it's okay
to be messy or make mistakes, and to say ouch when words or actions impact you in the group work.
Church of the Holy Spirit incorporated these guidelines to its visioning process; Kondrath, 4, 25.
visioning design. 106 The text suggests congregations seek develop a process which
intentionally engages its theological bearing and understanding, heritage and history, and
current context as sources for visioning. Thompson advises that congregations ground
the activities of the visioning process in prayer, dialogue and worship. The
incorporation of these components led to a design which included the following
activities: vestry retreat, identification of planning bodies, commissioning of the plan,
sermons addressing the visioning process, focus group sessions, leadership development
training, development and communication of the visioning document, calling forth gifts,
and support of clergy aspirations.
A vestry retreat was designed which incorporated the key elements of the
visioning plan. The retreat began with presentation of the VISIONS Guidelines. The
vestry engaged in exercises that were grounded in the disciplines and behaviors of the
learning organization. The vestry explored the congregation's theological understanding,
heritage and context. This exploration and discovery preceded the environmental scan of
the congregation's external threats, external opportunities, internal weaknesses and
internal strengths. The onsite evaluation of the retreat's design, structure and facilitation
led to the decision to formally adopt the learning community and leadership development
frameworks to support the visioning process. Participants also valued the incorporation of
107 Thompson, 8-13.
Forming Planning Committees
Church of the Holy Spirit formed two planning bodies to form the core
committees for the development of the strategic plan: the Strategic Planning Committee
and Guiding Coalition. The Strategic Planning Committee was charged with analyzing
information gained through focus groups, surveys and individual interviews. The
committee identified trends and themes from the data and will meet to develop drafts of
the strategic plan. The committee is an intergenerational group, which includes youths,
seniors, with people representing the diversity of the congregation. The Guiding
Coalition's is charged with provided feedback on the work of the Strategic Planning
Committee. It gives feedback to the process visioning and the content of the work of the
emerging strategic plan. Vestry members are assigned to participate on each committee.
The rector is an ex-officio member of both planning bodies.
Commissioning of the Visioning and Planning Process
The visioning process and members of the planning bodies were commissioned
during a worship service prior to the commencement of any committee work. The
commissioning ceremony began with the members of the congregation renewing their
baptismal vows. Members of the planning bodies committed to engage in prayerful
reflection and discernment by courageously and faithfully listening for the ways God is
working in the congregation and the surrounding neighborhoods. The members of the
congregation committed to pray to God for the strength, courage, and compassion to
imagine a new future and meet occasionally to learn to perform the work of
reconciliation, compassion and justice in the surrounding community.
Other Ways of Incorporating the Visioning in Worship
The liturgical calendar was used to preach sermons that reinforced the importance
of committing time, energy and other resources to collectively discern individual and
congregational vocation. For example, a sermon was preached on the third Sunday of
Advent that connected the Collect's call to pray for God to intervene through grace and
strength, transform us and the world with the visioning and discernment of the planning
Congregational Participation & Focus Groups
Focus groups served as a primary modality for soliciting and obtaining feedback
and input of members of the congregation to the visioning process. The holistic and
integrated nature of the visioning was discussed in each focus group. The VISIONS
guidelines were used to govern the interaction of the groups. The congregation was
invited to participate in prayerful dialogue about the "futuring" of the ministry, service
and leadership of the congregation given the church's theological bearing, heritage and
context. Most gatherings grouped people of similar backgrounds, interests or roles.
Focus groups for young adults, youth, seniors, and parents with young families were
held. Other focus groups are planned for members of Haitian, Honduran and Afro-Latino
108 Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and because we are sorely hindered by
our sins, let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to
whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end. Book of Common Prayer, 212.
heritage. Open focus groups were also conducted without regard to the background or
interests of participants.
Leadership development is a key aspect of the visioning and planning process of
Church of the Holy Spirit. Incorporating the values and concepts of the learning
organization into the congregation's praxis for visioning and planning provided the
platform for training and teaching leadership frameworks and competencies. Kouzes and
Posner's Leadership Practices Inventory along with the Leadership is Everyone 's
Business Workshop is planned as a congregation-wide leadership development
opportunity. The weekend event is intended to contextualize the transformation of
congregational assumptions and exercise of leadership. Focused learning of leadership
competencies was included in the process. Leadership development for congregational
youth was incorporated into the youth focus group session. Teenagers and preteens
connected to Church of the Holy Spirit as members, or participants in the tutoring and
sports team participated in a leadership development session based on Seven Habits of
Highly Effective Teens and related workbook. 109 Participants engaged in dialogue and
conversation related to reimagining a congregation that is more responsive to the
addressing the needs and aspirations of youth members of the church and residents of the
Synthesizing the Vision into a Strategic Plan
Sean Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens (New York: Fireside, 1998).
The Strategic Planning Committee met periodically to process data collected from
the Vestry Retreat, Guiding Coalition, and focus groups to identify themes and trends.
They engaged in prayerful dialogue to develop strategies to leverage the internal
strengths of the congregation to minimize the external threats facing it and maximize the
external opportunities for ministry and service. They also discussed ways to address the
internal weaknesses of the congregation. The strategic thinking took place in the context
of reflection on the felt needs of the surrounding community. Attention was paid to
hearing God's voice and discerning God's will for the congregation. Discussion about
development of new approaches to Christian formation and enhanced education and
learning opportunities was incorporated into the emerging plan. The results of the
prayerful dialogue, visioning, and strategy sessions will be distilled in a draft plan
developed jointly by the Rector, Vestry and Strategic Planning Committee. The Guiding
Coalition will provide feedback into the initial drafts of the plan. The Vestry and
Strategic Planning Committee will respond to the feedback of the Guiding Coalition
before voting on the final plan.
Communicating the Plan
The core values, strategic direction, and re-imagined ministry, worship, and
service for Church of the Holy Spirit will be shared in the context of a worship service. A
congregational forum will be held following the service to distribute an executive
summary of the plan. An overview of the plan and its implications for the congregation's
ministry, worship, service and leadership will be shared during the forum. The forum will
be the first of several congregation wide opportunities to engage in dialogue about the
vision, direction, and implementation of the strategic plan.
Calling Forth Gifts
Members of the congregation will be invited to identify, name and share the gifts
and talents they wish to pledge toward implementing the reimagined vision for the
church, in the context of worship. The Rector, Stewardship Committee Chairperson,
Senior and Junior Wardens will discuss the development of multi-layered approaches to
incorporating the pledges of time and talent from the calling forth of gifts into the work
of the congregation. Additional leadership and skill development opportunities will be
identified to support those offering to serve in support of the new strategic plan.
This contemplated meeting is scheduled to precede the scheduling of a meeting
between the vestry and the rector about the particularized impact on her ministry and
leadership. This planned dialogue is envisioned to create a space for the rector to share
the areas that she would like to focus specific attention on based on her own gifts, talents,
and special interests. The intention is to identify ways to enhance and support mutual
ministry that fosters the fruits of the spirit in the ministry of the clergy and the laity.
Visual and Performing Arts to Support and Communicate the New Vision
Artistic interpretations of the vision, values and imagination of the strategic plan
will be developed by visual and performing artists in the congregation and seminarians of
the Episcopal Divinity School. The congregation's youth and adult members and others
involved in the church's ministries and programs will be invited to share their creative
interpretations of the plan. Artistic interpretations of the plan will be incorporated in the
liturgy of worship and physical plant of the church and its property.
September Services & Re-Visiting the Vision Anew
The interpretations will be combined with a series of sermons in September
designed to invite the congregation to recommit to the work envisioned months earlier
during the active visioning and planning period. Developing innovative venues and
modalities for repeatedly communicating the plan's vision is essential to effectively
implementing the change and transformation contemplated in the plan. Strategies for
empowering broad-based action, generating short-term success, and consolidating the
embodied success to produce more change will be developed and implemented as the
visioning process unfolds. Whether the transformation envisioned in the plan will be
effective in anchoring change into the culture and systems of Church of the Holy Spirit is
yet to be determined. 1 10 Church of the Holy Spirit provides an opportunity to study a
lived revisioning of a vibrant and vital Afro-Anglican congregation.
110 John Kotter, Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996), 20-3 1.
Chapter 6 Conclusions and Future Work
Afro-Anglican congregations of the Episcopal Church in the United States have a
rich heritage to assist them in reimagining their ministry and service for the future. St.
Thomas African Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, St. Philips Episcopal Church, and St.
James Episcopal Church, Baltimore serve as historic examples of Afro- Anglicans
committed to serving their local neighborhoods and communities. They viewed meeting
the needs of Afro-descended people as a core responsibility. Each congregation offers a
particular legacy of community responsive ministry. The early histories of these parishes
build on the interplay between Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, the Free African Society,
and the Prince Hall Masons. The dynamic interaction among these players led to the birth
of the institutional Black church in the United States. St. Thomas African Episcopal
Church was the first Black and first Afro- Anglican Church in the country. It sought to
address the religious and spiritual needs of its members and the broader community while
responding in concrete ways to the economic, social, and political challenges of the Black
community in Philadelphia. These challenges were significant and warranted aggressive
advocacy, effective organization, and consistent pastoral presence.
Different obstacles and structural inequities facing confront Black communities
today. Political, social and economic progress transformed the condition and
opportunities for the Afro descended people in the United States. Structural inequities
and systemic oppression persist and continue to pose significant barriers for significant
numbers of Black women, men and children. Inadequate schools, economic dislocation
caused by chronic levels of high unemployment and disinvestment in Black
neighborhoods and institutions has led to a growing number of impoverished children and
families. Massive incarceration of Black men created by the War on Drugs is crippling
generations of individuals, families and communities. The full effect is only beginning to
be studied and revealed.
What is the appropriate response or intervention? Some argue over the
appropriate political agenda needed to combat the current situation affecting Black
people. These discussions are warranted, but insufficient to adequately respond to the
situation. The challenge is further complicated by the changing demographics and
notions of identity with Black communities. Civic engagement, policy development, and
economic redevelopment are needed. People also need integrated approaches to
religious, educational, and spiritual development. Afro-Anglicanism can play a role in
implementing holistic service and ministry to respond to these needs of Black people,
families and communities. This is the lesson from Absalom Jones and St. Thomas
African Episcopal Church. Current models of Afro-Anglican congregational
responsiveness to community needs exist in places like St. Edmund's Episcopal Church
located in Southside Chicago and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Atlanta.
The ability of a replicating these mission shaped models of service requires a
commitment to revisioning the Afro-Anglican Church. The proposed revisioning
involves a shift of paradigm from a focus on quick fixes to church growth to building the
capacity for adaptive leadership. A key competency of adaptive leadership is inspiring,
developing and implementing a shared vision for the future. The model of visioning and
strategic planning developed at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Mattapan, Massachusetts
is worthy of consideration. It provides a holistic approach to congregational discernment
through the adoption of principles of learning organizations. Focus groups, leadership
development workshops, and planning sessions provide multiple opportunities for
prayerful dialogue. Spiritually grounded discernment, traditional strategic planning, and
adaptive leadership development are integrated with tools and instruments supporting
anti-racism and anti-oppression. The strength of the approach is its ability to pierce veils
of silence and break open the promise of looking with Gospel eyes at ways to respond to
needs of the community and the congregation.
Next steps include revisiting the Church of the Holy Spirit to observe and
measure the impact and effectiveness of its visioning process. An opportunity to develop
similar approaches in other Afro-Anglican congregations is equally significant work
flowing from this thesis. Discussion of liberative theologies that are responsive to the
multiple traditions, contexts, and challenges of an increasingly diverse Black community.
Engagement of Womanist, Black, and postcolonial theologies may inform such a
discussion. This work should be developed with further examination of the emerging
identify of the Afro-Anglican Church and Black communities. The emerging liberative
theology should inform and support the paradigm shift intended to flow from visioning
within Afro-Anglican congregations. This would be a significant step in developing a
liberation Afro- Anglican praxis for responding to the needs of Black communities. It
starts with clarification of purpose through visioning capable of revitalizing, reenergizing
and restoring the capacity of congregations to minister and serve people inside and
outside their church.
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